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#308645 - 12/18/06 12:07 AM The Great Karate Myth
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
ok, a friend was kind enough to loan me a copy of the text "The Great Karate Myth" by Nathan Johnson.

this review/commentary is in part a continuation of the thread started here:
http://www.fightingarts.com/ubbthreads/s...e=1&fpart=1

first, to be honest - I haven't read the book page by page as of yet. The reason I'm even giving preliminary comment now is because I did take the time to try and find reference in the book to specifics regarding the stated 'myth' and it's main basis of debunking it.

It was easy to find some answers to questions I had, but some answers were really difficult to find or non-exitent. but I'll present now, to let the answers to my questions draw out while I actually read the book thru. now arguments can be presented with page numbers. give me a page number to correct my preliminary thoughts.

surface observation: no footnotes, no citations....but lots of [annotation] - big warning. There was just a 'bibliography' of a relatively few well-known works. as a comparrison, good 5 page articles we read online have twice as many references. for a 400 page book...16 references doesn't cut it (and 2 of which were references to his own earlier works).

The main 'myth' (according to the book):
Quote:

"This book offers irrefutable evidence that key Karate kata, routinely practiced as unarmed self-defense, are, in actuality, weapons kata simply practiced without the weapons!"



Thats the myth he sets out to debunk...or is it the one he tries to prove? also in the book, separate from the myth, are his weaponless interpretations of other select kata - Naihanchi and Tensho. no myth there, just interpretations, and not bad ones, but way too 'soft' IMO. It's like interpreting Karate kata with Wing Chun - not bad, but is it 'original'? His section titled "kobudo" is bizzare...it shows weaponless kata frames of what he calls 'Kobudo Sanchin'...which is indistinguishable from Uechi-Sanchin. so the 'kobudo' section of the book shows no weapons...hmmmm.

and btw, why is it weaponS ? with an "S" ...does that mean he interprets kata with anything other than sai? not mentioned.

The kata he chooses to focus on to go from weaponless to sai translation in the book are Uechi-Sanchin, Uechi Seisan, and Uechi Sanseiru.

His reasoning for choosing Sai as oppossed to say a Bo or Kama is not apparent...I couldn't find it. if someone knows, please inform the thread.

His reasoning for choosing these particular kata is unclear other than by eliminating kata which didn't have commonality with other styles, then further justifying the elimination process by dismissing kata that was apparently imported to Okinawa after Higaonna's death in 1915. Reasoning: Not clear where the kata came from or if it was significantly changed or not for purposes other than it's intended purpose. Example: All of Goju's kata Miyagi suppossedly learned in China after Higaonna's death - therefore they are dismissed from analysis.

so basically he's saying he doesn't interpret these Goju kata with weapons, because it's not clear where the kata came from.

He doesn't mention specifically (as I've not found yet) why Kingai, To'on, Shitoryu or any other Naha-te based versions of his selected kata are not used over the Uechi versions....other than using the well-know fact that Higaonna taught open hand for the opening sequences of Sanchin. (extrapolating from that, he concludes Seisan and Sanseiru must have also been open hand). I'm not sure if he's even seen To'on ryu or Kingai Ryu versions of kata....or even training in legitimate styles of Kobudo kata.

He also doesn't mention why Shorin doesn't contain Sanchin, Seisan or Sanseiru. He does mention that some Shorin kata can be interpreted with weapons, but because of the limited space in the book, they aren't shown. He also presents the possibility that classic kata were designed and then later deliberately modified to conceal weapon techniques - without one reference of proof on that specific point.

So we have Sai + Uechi kata.

Goju kata are eliminated (but Tensho is used for his hand-grappling since lets face it...Tensho is a cool and intracate kata...although puzzling he trusts Miyagi's form that Miyagi admittedly created himself, but yet disregards forms which Miyagi brings back from China).

not clear why he eliminates the To'on, Kingai-ryu or other nahate version forms...he's likely never seen one. and it only shows Naihanchi so it's unclear of his Shorin knowledge.

which led me to the most burning question...if he can eliminate kata from analysis by dissmissing them based on the quality of their origins...then shouldn't WE use that same criteria for his conclusions?

The only references of his background and training are a mention that he's got 30 years of experience and has worked 15 years on these kata in the book (Sanchin,Seisan,Sanseiru, Tensho and Naihanchi).

15 years. well, ok...he must have had really good and well known instruction then....

So I tried finding mention where he learned Uechi, Goju, Shorin, & Kobudo ...no luck.

using his own elimination logic, then we shouldn't be using his material as a source.

-I did, however, find in the 'acknowledgement' section, mention of Sensei(s) Martin Johnson, Dave Franks, David Blachford, Roy Smith, Steve Nowaki, Kevin Owen, Kevin Luce, Gary Meglone, Dr. Andy Cundy, Dr. Daniel Langton, Dr. Robert Wallis, Dr. Elliot Cohen, and Dr. Duncan Thomas.

All fine people, I'm sure...just never heard of them - or perhaps he doesn't mean to acknowledge them as his instructors, but in helping with the book.

If someone can clarify where Nathan Johnson got his 15 years of training in the above Uechi, Goju and Shorin kata and also where his Kobudo training is from....that would help me to get the motivation to read the rest of the book. Thanks.

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#308646 - 12/18/06 12:24 AM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
almost forgot...the positive :

ending every other sentance in controversial sections with "!" really helps my motivation in believing whats written! - although I haven't seen that persuasive writing technique since reading batman comics! - thought that was cool!

ok, seriously...

I liked most of the write-up so far on the pushing-hands drills. somehow, I don't think he can link that to weapons...but I'll keep reading...

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#308647 - 12/19/06 06:48 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
And? What else? Good, bad, extremely funny?

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#308648 - 12/19/06 10:56 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: butterfly]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
summary:

The historical research was caca.

The push hands/tactile training/arm grappling/etc was very good.

The kobudo/sai material is novice.

weaponless kata interpretation was decent and drew from the hand grappling drills. except interpreting Tensho as wrist releases is overly-simplistic and missing out on alot of key principles, IMO.

his blend of Wing Chun and Karate sensitivity drills are interesting and worth a peek. maybe even dishing out for a seminar if curious.

IMO, he attempted to get attention by being historicaly controversial while at the same time force-justifying his material (exactly as he did 5 years ago with his 'kata doesnt have combat principles' theory...which he gleans over in this book by simply writing to the effect "all material presented in this book superceeds previous books by the author.") poof! just like that. forget that in the last book he was saying 'here is the TRUE story...'. lol

HOWEVER, the meat-and-potatoes of what he's got to offer is interesting in the form of the 2-person hand/arm drills he presents. That section is worth a read if the book is around.

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#308649 - 12/20/06 12:27 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Ed -

Good for you for giving the book a read through. I appreciate the review. Consensus seems to be that the guy has some skill and some interesting ideas, if you can get through the marketing hyperbole.
_________________________
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

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#308650 - 12/23/06 06:20 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: MattJ]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
nice one Ed, im glad we all went the extra mile with this one.
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#308651 - 12/27/06 06:20 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5811
Loc: USA
Part of what causes the problems with his work is in the wording, as an example, use of a term/s that should--at best, be used VERY spareingly.

The term "irrefutable evidence."

Probably should have gone little bit easier with that.

The single most glaring problem is that there is a whole body of extent, classical weapons kata--with its OWN history.
This is akin to someone building takeing a blow torch and cutting the roof and most of the panels off his car because he needed a truck---when trucks are easily available on every corner.

Without an answer/explination--then his "solution" actually raises more questions/creates more problems than his "solution" is supposed to "solve."

As such its not a "solution" at all.

That "some" (my emp) kata may be able to do "double duty" (my term) as a method of weapon training is a long way from all kata being useful for such.



Edited by cxt (12/27/06 06:28 PM)
_________________________
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

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#308652 - 12/28/06 09:24 AM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: cxt]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
good observation. following that train of thought, some of his arguments only hold true for segments of certain kata. The whole business of open hand vs. closed hand sanchin is the most obvious example. In kata that he interprets to be sai kata, when there is a closed hand - he interprets it to be grasping a sai...but yet he discounted Goju sanchin based on it 'originally' having been taught with an open hand first sequence.

If a closed fist can be interepreted as holding a sai, then why make a distinction between open and closed hand versions?

Reason: He wanted to justify eliminating Goju kata from his analysis, because 1. he doesn't know all of it's kata. and 2. Goju kata interpreted with sai is problematic to come up with convincing interpretations.

basically, he eliminates Goju kata from analysis because Miyagi brought it over from China. ...but yet, he has no problem using Miyagi authored 'Tensho' kata for weaponless interpretation.

Thats selective reasoning based on predetermined outcome.

he simply eliminated by justification the elements he didn't know (namely, other okinawan style's kata and other kobudo weapons).

why? the only motive I could possibly fathom is to sell a book/DVD and run a seminar tour based on the book material.

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#308653 - 12/30/06 02:59 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5811
Loc: USA
Ed

I have no problem with folks makeing money--I like money .

But I do have a problem when the means involve distortions of history, spurious reasoning and odd rationalizations masquerading as "solutions" to problems no-one has.

(based upon what has been presented so far)

Also bothers me that the "solutions" presented willfully ignores a number of less complex, less convoluted, more rational/logicial--and thus "better" explanations.

If I tried to present a similar "solution" to the board, I would be laughed out of the room--and probably fired.
_________________________
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

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#308654 - 12/30/06 10:15 PM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: cxt]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
I agree. material that is sold is fine, but the material (if it's good) should sell itself...no need to make elaborate historic justifications and jumps to conclusion via selective and persuasive reasoning.

what that approach does is give selfish short-term gain at the expense of muddying many people's waters.

it's dishonest and immoral if intentional. if it's not intentional, then theres nothing really that can be said or done...other than not buying it.

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#308655 - 12/31/06 07:34 AM Re: The Great Karate Myth [Re: Ed_Morris]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
'no need to make elaborate historic justifications and jumps to conclusion via selective and persuasive reasoning.'

well its a MA book after all.................LOL
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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